The Borneo Post (Sabah)
Renewable energy rural electrification roadmap
KOTA KINABALU: A consortium formed between Forever Sabah, Tonibung, Pacos Trust, and Green Empowerment has initiated the Sabah Renewable Energy Rural Electrification Roadmap, also known as the RE2 Roadmap.
Working closely with the relevant state government agencies and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB), this RE2 Roadmap will help navigate towards a future of energy equity, right livelihood, and wellbeing for Sabahans.
Through the facilitation and assembly of data, strategies, skills, and collaborations, the project aims to strengthen political and societal will to implement renewable energy mini-grids for at least half of the unelectrified remote area villages in Sabah by 2027.
Sabah is home to 72 per cent of unelectrified rural Malaysians.
Cynthia Ong, Chief Executive Facilitator of Forever Sabah, therefore believes Sabah is ripe to help lead the transition to renewable energy that is underway globally, pointing out, “We as Sabah are small enough to pivot, yet large enough to be relevant.”
Most unelectrified villages are occupied by remote indigenous and local communities in the interior which are too far from the transmission grid to be costeffectively connected.
However, Ong sees potential opportunities in that.
“There is an opening for renewables in the gaps where communities cannot viably connect to the grid,” she said.
The consortium has already begun mapping demand within rural Sabah and is currently identifying 200 villages to hear the aspirations of these communities.
They will then conduct feasibility studies to co-design 40 mini-grid systems in a selection of bio-cultural landscapes.
Appropriate training through co-learning experiences and technology transfer from regional allies will support building capacities amongst the stakeholders.
Technical advisor to Tonibung, Senator Adrian Lasimbang, emphasises how vital energy access is to rural livelihoods, calling it “life-changing”.
“Enabling end-use is an important factor in rural electrification,” he said.
“Through our studies and experience with establishing around 30 mini-grids over twenty years, we know that to introduce an effective renewable energy system, the mini-grid should be able to at least support refrigeration.” Refrigeration is a household necessity, bringing exponential value to rural communities in terms of socioeconomic benefits.
The key government partners — Sabah State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN), Sabah Ministry of Rural Development (KPLB Sabah), Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB), and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) — are deeply engaged in the project as all strive for the common goal of a fully electrified state.
“The way forward is where nature, culture and economy are harmonised and oriented towards equitable and sustainable livelihood, wellbeing, and climate resilience,” said Sabah UPEN deputy director Robert Stidi, regarding the project’s vision.
He added, “Sabah aspires to align with global net-zero targets and Malaysia’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).” The newly updated NDC states that Malaysia intends to reduce its economy-wide carbon intensity (against GDP) of 45 per cent by 2030.
Concurrently, KPLB Sabah oversees a rural electrification program, Bekalan Elektrik Luar Bandar Alternative (BELBA), which aligns with the Roadmap initiative.
Permanent Secretary of KPLB Sabah, Tuan Haji Faimin Kamin, emphasises that: “The bo omup engagement which we facilitated with District Officers throughout Sabah will ground the RE2 Roadmap initiative in the landscapes and seascapes most in need of the sustainable livelihoods, co age industries and improved wellbeing that energy access can generate.” By directly engaging with District Officers, the RE2 Roadmap will be er identify the electrification needs of communities in each district.
“We welcome the Sabah Renewable Energy Rural Electrification Roadmap initiative,” said SESB Chief Engineer of Sustainable Energy Development, Terrence John Kouju.
SESB has long been commi ed to expanding renewable energy sources and rural electrification within Sabah.
“We believe this Roadmap would complement ours and also the government’s planning strategies in providing electricity to the rural communities of Sabah,” he added.
The RE2 Roadmap includes government participation in skills transfer and knowledge building to enable the shi in operational paradigms to decentralised and climatefriendly approaches.
Through a web of communication channels the initiative will create a portal through which societal understanding and awareness of the issues and the Roadmap process can grow.
The intention is to share knowledge, build common language, and garner support for implementation of the RE2 Roadmap across the government and the wider public.
The RE2 Roadmap is an imperative for Sabah to begin a decisive shi towards sustainable development, a low-carbon state economy and climate resilience.
As the world gears up for COP 26, the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, this project has won funding from UK PACT (Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions), a £60m flagship programme under UK’s International Climate Finance (ICF) portfolio.
Sabah RE2 Roadmap was one of five projects presented at the Malaysia-UK Pact Project Portfolio Launch event on 11th August 2021.
Each project works with partners at national, state, and local levels in one of four areas of focus: low-carbon planning, nature, energy, and green finance.
With the Covid-19 pandemic taking up much of our collective focus over the last year, British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Charles Hay MVO, stressed in his welcoming address the need to also give a ention to the emerging climate crisis, and to work together to enable vulnerable countries to improve their climate resilience.
We as Sabah are small enough to pivot, yet large enough to be relevant.